Lavender helps to reduce anxiety. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects approximately 6.8 million adults in the U.S. Unfortunately, only about 43 percent seek treatment (1). While there are several drugs available to treat anxiety, many hesitate to take them or stop use due to side effects such as sedation.
In an effort to find safe, effective alternatives, researchers have placed their focus on lavender. A 2010 study evaluated the efficacy of Silexan, a lavender oil capsule preparation, versus the benzodiazepine, Lorazepam (prescription drug used to treat anxiety) 2.
After six weeks of supplementation, Silexan’s effectiveness in improving generalized anxiety was comparable to Lorazepam. In addition, the lavender oil showed no sedative effects and was not habit forming (3).
There are several other studies backing lavender’s anxiety-alleviating ability.
In a 2010 study, researchers set out to assess lavender’s ability to reduce anxiety levels in patients during a dental exam. Patients who were given lavender to smell prior to their scheduled appointment reported significantly lower anxiety going into the exam (4).
In a similar study, using the aroma of orange and lavender in a dental practice waiting room resulted in reduced anxiety and improved the mood of waiting patients, compared to soothing music or no intervention at all (5).
Lavender helps relieve painful menstrual cramps. In a Turkish study, 44 participants suffering from dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) took part in aromatherapy massage with lavender oil or placebo oil.
The lavender massage was found to decrease pain at a statistically significant rate than that of placebo massage (6).
Lavender oil may be an effective alternative treatment for the 20 percent of women afflicted by dysmenorrhea who report experiencing pain that is severe enough to interfere with their daily activities (7).
Lavender has antifungal activity. According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, lavender essential oil may be useful in the treatment of fungal diseases, particularly dermatophytosis (superficial infections of the skin such as ringworm) and candidosis (yeast infection) 8.
An in vitro study comparing the effect of lavender essential oil and clotrimazole (used to treat yeast infections) on vaginal candidiasis revealed that in the lavender group, a significant difference was observed two times and the average fungal cell count was lower after 48 hours (9).
While more studies are needed, researchers are optimistic with results so far.
Lavender has antibacterial activity. The results of a 2012 study reports that lavender oil shows broad antibacterial activity against all tested strains of recurrent aphthous ulceration (round, painful ulcers that occur in the mouth) 10.
Topical treatment resulted in a significant reduction in inflammation level, ulcer size, healing time and pain relief mostly from the first dose, compared to baseline and placebo.
Lavender helps speed wound-healing time. Using a rat model of wound healing, researchers tested the efficacy of lavender oil compared to transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, saline solution and povidone-iodine in wound healing.
After five days of treatment, wound closure progressed more rapidly in the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and lavender oil groups than in the control and other study groups.
Macroscopic examination of the wound site in the lavender oil rat group revealed no signs of edema, discharge or local infection (11).
Lavender may help treat hair loss. In a 2016 comparative study, researchers analyzed the effects of lavender oil versus 3 percent Minoxidil (standard hair-loss treatment) in female mice.
Once a day, five times a week, for four weeks, divided groups received topical application of 3 percent lavender oil, 5 percent lavender oil, saline, jojoba oil or 3 percent Minoxidil.
Results revealed that at the third week, the Minoxidil treatment group, 3 percent and 5 percent lavender oil groups showed 51 percent, 22 percent and 36 percent of hair growth, respectively. At the 4th week, hair growth jumped to 99.8 percent, 90 percent and 95 percent, respectively (12).
Lavender can improve sleep quality. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to many diseases and health problems. In their ongoing search for safe, non-habit forming sleep aids, researchers have placed their focus on lavender aromatherapy.
Researchers in Taiwan found that in one study, women receiving aromatherapy treatment using lavender experienced a significant improvement in sleep quality. Participants of the study were 67 women aged 45–55 years with insomnia. Treatment consisted of smelling lavender for 20 minutes, twice a week, for 12 weeks (13).
In 2010, the sleep quality of 64 patients in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Iran was evaluated before and after lavender aromatherapy. The intervention consisted of nine hours of aromatherapy with lavender oil for three nights (experiment group), versus no intervention (control group).
Quality of sleep in the patients was significantly improved after aromatherapy with lavender oil (14).
Lavender essential oil helps alleviate the severity of migraines. In a placebo-controlled clinical trial, 47 participants were instructed to smell lavender essential oil for 15 minutes when they experienced a migraine. Patients were then asked to record their headache severity and other symptoms in 30-minute intervals for a total of 2 hours.
It was reported that in 129 headache attacks, there was an improvement in 92 of the cases.
The results suggest that the use of lavender essential oil may be a safe, adjuvant therapy to help relieve headache pain and discomfort (15).
Lavender helps treat colic. Colic affects approximately 20 to 25 percent of babies and is characterized by inconsolable crying that can last several hours a day for weeks at a time (16). While experts are not exactly sure what causes colic, some believe it may be due to intestinal gas (caused by swallowing too much air from crying), an immature nervous system or bottle-fed babies reacting to certain proteins in their formula.
According to the International Journal of Nursing Practice, researchers have found that massaging a colicky baby’s abdomen with lavender oil results in a reduction in the severity of symptoms (17).
When taken as an oral supplement, side effects may include nausea, belching and confusion
When applied topically, allergic skin reactions and sensitivity to sunlight may occur.
Excessive breast development in preteen boys with repeated application of lavender, as well as perfumes with lavender as its main ingredient have been reported (18).
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, long-term oral consumption or long-term topical application should be avoided in patients with hormonal cancers (19).
To help treat anxiety, dosages of 80-160 mg of the lavender oil capsule preparation, Silexan has been used for six weeks.
When used as aromatherapy, there are no set guidelines for use; studies have ranged from 20 minutes of use, three times a week, to nine hours of aromatherapy for three nights.
Lavender, the highly fragrant plant that is often used in essential oils and aromatherapy for relaxation, has been shown in several studies to be an effective anxiety reducer. Growing research also shows its ability to alleviate painful menstrual cramps and migraines, speed wound healing, improve sleep quality and treat colic.
Due to its antibacterial and antifungal activity, lavender has the potential to treat other conditions.